Friday’s match between Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan in the ONGC 14th Nehru Cup became inconsequential even before kick off but surprisingly, Sri Lanka were not aware of it. They lost 1-4.
Reason: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) did a complete U-turn on Friday and said India and Syria were through to Monday’s final on the head-to-head rule. That is: since Sri Lanka had lost to India, they had no chance of making the title-round even if they finished on the same points as the hosts (six).
That would have happened had Sri Lanka won on Friday and India lost to Syria on Saturday. Till Thursday, the AIFF maintained that Sri Lanka could mar India’s chances if they won big to overturn their inferior goal difference and India lost on Saturday.
“We were not aware of this rule,” said Sri Lanka’s assistant-coach Sumit Walpola on Friday.
Accepting the mistake, Alberto Colaco, the AIFF general secretary, said: “It’s a lapse on our part and I take full responsibility.”
“The rules were sent to all the teams but there was some confusion regarding the goal difference and head-to-head thing. Even Bob Houghton came to know about it today morning,” Colaco added.
“According to the new Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rules, the greater number of points obtained in matches between the two teams is taken into account. And in that case India are in the final,” he said.
Houghton though supported the rules and said it benefits the better teams. “I think it is a good rule and the better team gets a fair chance,” he said.
Renedy to captain
India will give the bench-warmers a run out on Saturday. Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri will be rested while Climax Lawrence and NP Pradeep will play for 45 minutes. Renedy Singh will lead the team while Abhishek Yadav will get a look in for the first time in the tournament, partnering Sushil Kumar upfront. Syed Rahim Nabi will start on the right side of the midfield and Mehrajuddin Wadao too will play.
Kyrgyzstan drubbed Sri Lanka 4-1 to end their campaign with a win on Friday.
Result: Kyrgyzstan 4: Z Anton (34th), A Ildar (45th), M Mirlan (65th), Usanov Rustem (70th); Sri Lanka 1: Chathura Maduranga 53rd minute.